The Reagan administration has told federal agencies to stop paying people who serve on government advisory committees unless absolutely necessary.

In 1982, more than 40 percent of the 19,000 people who served on the government's 878 advisory committees, according to a special study conducted by the General Services Administration. They received up to about $200 a day, in addition to the travel and per diem expenses that most advisory committee members are paid.

According to the new policy rule, "GSA believes that a sufficient number of citizens of all backgrounds and qualifications can be found to provide advice and recommendations to the federal government." Ron Martinson, the GSA official who drafted the regulation, said that it is in line with President Reagan's efforts to promote voluntarism.

"Henceforth, GSA's policy is that agencies should make a good-faith effort to solicit members on a non-compensated, volunteer basis," Martinson said.

The regulation says members may be paid "in the exceptional case where an agency head is unable to meet the need for technical expertise or the requirement for balanced membership." Members would continue to be reimbursed for their travel expenses and per diems.

The survey found that all the members of advisory committee members at four agencies were compensated, regardless of need. The agencies were the Health and Human Services Department (3,992 advisory committee members), National Endowment for the Humanities (998 members), National Science Foundation (741 members) and the Education Department (277 members). In contrast, the Interior Department, which has the second largest number of advisory committees after HHS, compensates only 2 percent of the members.

The new regulation, which was published in yesterday's Federal Register and takes effect immediately, pulled back from a 1980 draft rule that would have allowed GSA to bar the creation of new advisory committees.

The new rule also clarifies that ad hoc subcommittees to advisory committees are not covered by the panel's rules, a provision in line with a recent court decision in a case involving the task forces of the President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control.